Monday, February 4, 2013

The Mighty Isis #8: When Cindy Met Rennie

Rennie Roberts, that is.  It happens in The Mighty Isis #8 (Dec.-Jan. 1977-78), the comic's final issue.  The story is called "Darkly Through the Mutant's Eyes," written by  Jack C. Harris, pencilled by Mike Vosburg and inked by Marvel stalwart Al Milgrom.  Rennie is an unusual name, so it's safe to assume this is supposed to be the TV character and they just made a little mistake with her surname.  But you know, that kind of carelessness isn't enough of an explanation for a hardcore comic book geek like me, so I've put way more thought into this than most would consider sane.

Here's what I've come up with.  The DC Comics version of Isis and her supporting cast are alternate universe versions of the characters familiar from the live-action show and they live on one of those numbered or lettered DC earths where things are subtly different.

How different?  Well, I'm not sure, but I doubt Andrea Thomas works at Larkspur High in the comic.  And Isis spends a lot more time fighting sorcerous foes than helping kids get over losing their beloved dogs or reconcile with their Chinese heritage.  There's also the Rick Mason-Thomas romantic subplot, which at one point is actually a love triangle with a Mason-smitten Cindy Lee; none of this occurs in the live action show.  So perhaps this Rennie Roberts person is the DC universe Rennie Carol.  Different parents, occupying roughly the same place in dimensional continuity.  After all, she looks nothing like Ronalda Douglas, who played Rennie-Prime on TV.

Another explanation is way back in 1977, no one particularly cared as much as I do now about consistency between the comic and the Filmation show.  Someone told Harris there was a new student assistant on the show named Rennie, he shrugged and said, "Far out, but I've got some Wonder Woman to write.  I can't be wasting my time learning all these characters' names."

Which is kind of a shame.  This panel offers the tantalizing possibility Cindy Lee actually was around for the second season of Isis, but the stories that aired were just the ones involving Rennie.  In some ghostly alternate vision, Cindy and Rennie were pals and good-natured academic rivals trading shifts as Ms. Thomas's student assistant.  The Mighty Isis might have benefited from a regular back-up feature where Cindy and Rennie team to solve minor mysteries such as what's in the hamburger patties in the Larkspur cafeteria, because it sure ain't any kind of beef.  You know, with Ranji, C.J. and Feather dropping in from time to time.

Then again, that's probably a stupid idea.  Nothing would have helped sales and by the time Rennie appeared, it was a moot point anyway.  An editor's note in the letters page tells us there just weren't enough fans to keep the book afloat financially, but what few there were could keep watching the Saturday morning TV show for their Isis fix.  With the show already out of production, that wouldn't be true for long.

You gotta believe!


Richard Bensam said...

On one Earth, Rennie was raised by her mother and birth father. On another Earth, he birth father died after Rennie was born, her mother remarried, and Rennie took her adoptive father's surname. Problem solved. I just didn't want you to think you were the only person prepared to think too much about this.

Richard Bensam said...

I remember hearing a remark about the comic book's cancellation when it happened -- Jack C. Harris may have been the source, but I couldn't swear to that -- suggesting that part of the problem was so much creative effort being invested in moving the comic away from the tv show. Isis developed a different personality, her supporting cast was being changed, and generally they were going to make her into more of a standard DC hero. Then the question became: why license the rights from Filmation to a character we're making into something different? Especially when the comic wasn't popular enough to justify all that effort and expense. So the word came down to pull the plug.

Still, I can't help but wonder if Promethea wasn't the result of Alan Moore pondering "If they asked me to write an Isis revival, what would I do with it?"

Joel Bryan said...

If I were Stan Lee and this was a Marvel comic, that first comment would have earned you a No-Prize!

Interesting points in the second one, too. Yeah, the DC version takes a much darker tone than anything the TV show was prepared to do roughly around issue #5. Isis has an identity crisis and Rick Mason flips out because he loves her so much. It's surprisingly intense stuff considering the property.

Hmm. Now I'm thinking how an Alan Moore version of Isis would boggle the mind. I love the guy's work, but I don't think I'd care to see Mason, Thomas and Cindy Lee in bed together.

Joel Bryan said...

Jack C. Harris seems like a pretty cool guy. Anyone who lists Kamandi as one of his favorite writing assignments earns credibility with me.

Richard Bensam said...

Alan Moore's Isis would be Isis in bed with Andrea Thomas, and Rennie Carol in bed with Cindy Lee. Which would be awesome. And it would be pretty much exactly what happened in Promethea.

Joel Bryan said...

This week's lesson: love comes in many shapes.

But what about Rick Mason? Would he be revealed as some kind of traitor in the end, having seethed with resentment for years at some imagined emasculation by Isis?

Richard Bensam said...

See, there's no big mystery! Between the two of us we've written the whole first issue of Alan Moore's Mighty Isis without even trying. And he makes it look like such a big deal.

Joel Bryan said...

If DC wants Moore-level writing, they should turn to us. We'll reduce him to formula and take over the whole line. It may take two of us to do it, but hey, that's okay by me if you're in!